Ayurveda 101: The Three Doshas

Ayurveda revolves around your “dosha“. Literally meaning “something that is out of whack,” your dosha is the unique constitutional body type that you were born with. Having said that, your dosha influences much more than just your outer appearance. It influences your physical, physiological, psycological and spiritual health.

To understand doshas, we must first understand the five elements. One of the basic tenets of Ayurveda is the belief that “everything which exists in the external universe has its counterpart in a living being’s own personal internal universe.” [1] Each action in our lives corresponds to an action within ourselves. A popular example is to compare the cooking of your food on the fire of the stovetop to the cooking of your food on your internal digestive “fire” in your stomach. This idea of interconnectedness can be explained by understanding the Five Great Elements. These elements are:

  • Earth: the solid state of matter
  • Water: the liquid state of matter
  • Fire: the power that can convert a solid state of matter to a liquid or a gas (or vice versa)
  • Air: the gaseous state of matter
  • Ether: the space in which everything is created and everything returns

These five elements combine to create the three doshas. It is important to understand that these doshas are forces in your being, not specific substances themselves. For example, Kapha is not mucus; it is the force that creates mucus. Each of these forces controls not only certain substances, but organs, body systems, seasons and life stages as well. No wonder doshas are so important!

In future posts we will get into the characteristics + qualities of the doshas in more detail but for now, let’s talk dosha basics:

VATA: Made from air + ether, vata is in charge of your kinetic energy, body movement and nervous system. Since vata is like the wind, the main quality of vata is dryness.

KAPHA: Composed of water + earth, kapha lubricates the body and is in charge of potential energy and body stability. Just like the solid soil we live on, the main quality of kapha is heaviness.

PITTA: Created from air + water, pitta balances the kinetic energy of vata with the potential energy of kapha. It controls digestion and both the enzymatic + endocrine systems. Akin to fire, the main quality of pitta is heat.

Your Ayurvedic constitution was determined at your conception, based on a variety of factors involving your parents and their physical, mental and emotional states. Your constitution at birth is called your prakriti. It is your true nature, what you have been (and always will be) and remains a vital part of who you are throughout your life. It is when we stray from our prakriti (through imbalances in our diet, health choices, etc.) that we become unwell. Therefore, the main objective of Ayurvedic medicine is to restore you to your true nature.

Pretty cool, huh?

Well, that’s all for this edition folks. Next time we will talk more in depth about the doshas and how they influence our health.

 

[1] Svoboda, Robert. Prakriti: Your Ayurvedic Constitution.

[image found here]

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Ayurveda 101: What is Ayurveda?

Hey friends!

A few followers of my old blog have emailed me recently asking me if I could re-post my series I did last year on the basics of Ayurveda. Unfortunately, that computer has journeyed to the land of electronic ghosts and I don’t have access to those articles anymore 😦

What I can do, however, is start the Ayurvedic adventure from scratch! Please bear with me as I try to remember everything we discussed and if you have any other questions, please comment below or send me a little message over at absolutelyayurveda (at) gmail (dot) com.

To begin this series, I thought it would be best to start from the often asked question “what in the world is Ayurveda?” Surely the concept of an ancient system of health that is both all-encompassing and extremely individualized can be daunting. But have no fear, “Ayurveda 101” will help explain what this incredible health modality is all about!

The term “Ayurveda” is Sanskrit and it means “the science of life,” or “the knowledge of living,” or “the art of longevity.” Ayurveda originated in India around 5,000 years ago, although it spread to the Middle East many centuries ago and influenced (and was influenced by) other forms of medicine, including Islamic medicine (often called “Unani”) and Indigenous Medicine of the Middle East.

The main concepts in Ayurveda are:

  • We each are a unique combination of elements, which results in our constitutional type (our “dosha”)
  • Each part of ourselves relates to a larger part of the universe
  • The definition of true health is a complete balance of body, mind and spirit
  • The body, mind and spirit are always interconnected. A symptom in any one may be the result of a deeper problem in another.
  • Prevention is always emphasized over cure
  • Ayurveda is a way of life, not a short-term solution or a superficial means to attack a symptom

Throughout this series, we will address these concepts in detail to better understand Ayurveda. This beautiful system of medicine is all-natural, holistic and healthy and is a great way to re-connect with your inner and outer self!

[photo found here, from the film Ayurveda: The Art of Being]